Don’t wait until you turn 65 to start reading up on Medicare. It’s a complicated program with many options to consider. You’ll want to begin researching and asking questions shortly after you turn 64, if not earlier. This guide makes it easy to get started.
You can enroll in Medicare up to three months before the month you turn 65.* Most people enroll in Medicare Parts A and B when they enroll in Social Security. Part B is optional, but you have to opt out if you want to delay the coverage until later.
If you delay your coverage too long or miss your Initial Enrollment Period for Parts A and B, or Part D prescription drug plans, you may experience a gap in coverage. You could also incur late-enrollment penalties, which means you pay more for Medicare when you do enroll.
Medicare Part B requires you to enroll in the seven-month Initial Enrollment Period around your 65th birthday: three months before, the month of, and three months after. However, if you have qualifying employer coverage, you can delay Part B coverage (and premium) without penalty.
You can enroll in a Medicare supplement plan for an additional three months beyond your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period, no questions asked! And while there isn’t a financial penalty for missing this timeline, you may not be able to enroll in a Medicare supplement if you cannot pass health underwriting, which means you may miss out on the coverage you want or need.
Use this checklist to help ensure you’re ready to make the switch to Medicare.
Original Medicare includes Part A for inpatient/hospital coverage and Part B for outpatient/medical services coverage. Part A and Part B include limited coverage for your prescription drugs.
Medicare supplement plans, also called “Medigap” plans, work together with Original Medicare to help pay for services covered by Medicare. This type of health insurance can be used with a Part D prescription drug plan, which helps make outpatient prescription medications more affordable.
Medicare Part C, or Medicare Advantage, plans are a replacement for Original Medicare. Medicare Advantage (MA) plans provide coverage equivalent to Part A, Part B, and sometimes Part D—all in one plan. There are sometimes additional benefits, which may have extra costs. When you choose an MA plan, you are disenrolled from Original Medicare, as these plans replace it.
Prescription drug plans (PDP) fall under Medicare Part D. PDPs can be added to Original Medicare and used with Medicare supplement plans to provide coverage for your prescription medications. Some MA plans may provide prescription drug coverage. If you have an MA plan that includes drug coverage, you cannot have a stand-alone PDP.
You can enroll in a PDP in the seven-month period surrounding your 65th birthday or when your work coverage ends. After your Initial Enrollment Period ends, PDPs can have an Annual Enrollment Period just like MA plans do. You can choose your PDP each year during this period.
Medicare Advantage plans
Prescription drug plans
Learn more about Medicare and your enrollment period if you opt to delay Medicare.
Medicare supplement plans give you complete freedom to visit any doctor or facility in the U.S. that accepts Medicare.
We have been helping seniors afford health care since before Medicare began and were among the first to sell Medicare supplement insurance plans in Wisconsin.